In the Musical Theatre Department, students master storytelling in three different disciplines: voice, dance, and acting.
While many graduates of The Academy attend highly regarded BFA conservatory programs in musical theatre or acting, others choose to pursue their training in academic BA programs at liberal arts colleges.
A broad sampling of our recent graduates’ college placements include, but are not limited to, Northwestern, NYU, CAP 21, Carnegie Mellon, the University of Minnesota/Guthrie, Emerson, Millikin, Muhlenberg, Point Park, TCU, Boston Conservatory, Bereklee School of Music, and Ithaca.
Our students are taught by Chicago professionals, working out in the city on their own art as they impart wisdom to our students based both on their own professional training and experience. In addition to our permanent faculty, our rotating roster of guest-artists means that the music director or choreographer of our fall show is working with our students in between gigs at any of Chicago’s most reputable and innovative professional theaters.
For Musical Theatre students, performance is a key part of learning, and students have ample opportunity for it. The Department produces four to five mainstage shows per year, including two musical productions, and several plays as part of the Shakespeare Festival collaboration with the Theatre Department. Outside of performances, freshman and sophomore students focus their studies on the work of Shakespeare and Thornton Wilder, while juniors concentrate on Oscar Wilde and Tennessee Williams. Seniors begin to study the work of Anton Chekhov.
Our recent musical theatre productions have included A Little Night Music, Nine, City of Angels, Spring Awakening, Into the Woods, Fiorello, Urinetown, The Pirates of Penzance, The Robber Bridegroom, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Anything Goes, and Merrily We Roll Along. Our recent Shakespeare Festival titles have included The Merchant of Venice, Cymbeline, The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth.
We also produce works to be performed out in the community. Last year our seniors produced a Theatre for Young Audiences musical that we toured around, and this year we’re producing a shortened version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to take to elementary schools and a cabaret show to take to senior centers.
Acting focuses on building the skills for storytelling that an actor will bring to a text, but it also gives the student an experience of applying those skills to a specific period style of material. Each year, students work with both contemporary and period styles of material with a focus on each for a semester. A key component of this class is building a keen sense of ensemble and partnership with fellow actors. Different classes may focus on different elements of acting performance, like movement, voice, and text. The work of our acting classes includes the study of playwrights including Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, John Patrick Shanley, Tony Kushner, Noel Coward, and David Lindsay-Abaire. Freshmen students take "Introduction to Acting". Sophomores and juniors are split between "Intermediate Acting" and "Advanced Acting". Seniors take "Advanced Acting".
The general goal of the private voice lesson is to oversee a student’s artistic progress by guiding that student in developing practice skills, a solid technique that supports a wide range of styles, and appropriate recital, competition, and audition repertoire. Students will study both classical and musical theatre repertoire—including the songs that they are assigned in Studio.
Voice Repertoire is a student’s opportunity to perform repertoire in front of their peers and work on putting technique into practice. Theory is taught both in isolation and in integration with our daily study.
Our musical theatre program is one of the only in the country where our students study dance in the dance department, and we relish the privilege to do so. Freshmen and sophomores will take Ballet, Jazz, and Modern class, and all students will be placed in dance class during the first week of classes. Additionally, our students take a weekly Musical Theatre Dance Repertoire class where they learn classic Musical Theatre dances from great choreographers like Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse.
Musical Theatre Studio class is the centerpiece of our department's curriculum and the place where students will bring together not only the skills they are working in acting, dance, and voice class, but also where they build their content knowledge and understanding of the art form overall. It is essential for our students to gain a thorough understanding of the history of the art form: the shows, the creative teams, and the way that the genre was shaped by each historical era. Freshmen students take "Musical Theatre Studio I". Sophomores and juniors take "Musical Theatre Studio II". Seniors participate in "Senior Study" which incorporates elements of each.
*Course titles reflect transcripts for the 2017-2018 freshman class.
A scene from Theatre and Musical Theatre's joint presentation of As You Like It in Fall 2016.
"She's Got That Thing" from High Society in 2015.
"She's Got That Thing" from High Society in 2015.
Musical Theatre students Paris Richardson, Molly Bremer, and Haley Bolithon perform for Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the groundbreaking for the 1001 W. Chicago Ave development across the street from The Academy. They perform "Sing For Your Supper" from the musical The Boys from Syracuse.
Chair - Musical Theatre
Andrew Robinson earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and Religion from Rhodes College, his Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and his Master of Arts in Educational Theatre from New York University. he has been a creative associate with the Wagon Wheel Theatre for ten years where he has performed in and directed dozens of shows.
Patricia Rusk, musical director, pianist, arranger, and coach for both musical theatre and cabaret, has been performing professionally since age thirteen and teaching since age sixteen. She received a Bachelor of Arts with distinction from the Eastman School of Music and a Master of Arts from Northwestern University, with additional musical study at Villa Schifanoia, Florence, Italy.Patricia Rusk has been an integral part of The Academy since 1997.
Saren Nofs-Snyder is an accomplished, Jeff Nominated, Chicago based actress who teachers Acting in the Musical Theatre Department. She earned her BFA in Acting from the University of Utah, and her MFA in Acting and Directing from the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC).
Kelli Harrington earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Vocal Performance from Northwestern University.
Emily is a seasoned professional with multiple years of teaching experience at the Denver Center Theatre Academy. She holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Oklahoma.
Musical Theatre is comprised of three disciplines: dance, music, and theatre. The Musical Theatre audition includes participation in a dance class, song repertoire, acting requirement and an interview with department faculty.